Minowa Castle

From Jcastle.info



Nagano Narihisa established his base here around 1500 from which his family ruled for 4 generations until the castle fell to Takeda Shingen in 1566. After the fall of the Takeda, the castle was taken over by Oda Nobunaga in 1582 and ruled by Takigawa Kazumasa. Less than a month later, the castle was taken over by the Gohojo and was ruled by Hojo Ujikuni from Hachigata Castle. In 1590, after the fall of the Hojo, Tokugawa Ieyasu stationed Ii Naomasa here. Ii Naomasa undertook a large renovation of the castle and most of today's castle structure and remnants are thought to be from this period. In 1598, Ii Naomasa moved to Takasaki Castle and Minowa Castle was abandoned.

Visit Notes

This vast castle has a little bit of everything for casual castle fans and castle mania people alike. There is a beautifully reconstructed gate and bridge as well as stone walls and extensive earthworks. The castle is so huge you can easily spend a half day here exploring all the baileys, trenches, former gates and bits of stone walls. The town has had a castle redevelopment project in progress for over ten years now and is finally nearing completion. They have rebuilt the large Umadashi Gate (2016) and now the bridge to the Honmaru (2022). Much attention is drawn to these two reconstructions, but even more has been done to improve the site that is easy to overlook. Trees have been cut, baileys cleared and some of the earthworks around the Honmaru and Umadashi have been restored. You can see other baileys that are in the process of being cleared or look like they will be cleared soon too. This will be an even more amazing site when the honmaru gate on the inner side of the bridge is completed (completion date: TBD). Construction work on this last part is scheduled to begin this fall (2022). When construction starts you will no longer be able to cross the bridge so if this interests you, do so while you can.

There are a couple different busses that will get you near the castle. The best one is less than a 5 min walk from the castle but these are rather few. Busses that stop about 15 mins walk away from the castle are more frequent so don't confine your search to just the nearest bus stop.

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Castle Profile
English Name Minowa Castle
Japanese Name 箕輪城
Founder Nagano Narihisa
Year Founded 1500
Castle Type Hilltop
Castle Condition No main keep but other buildings
Designations Top 100 Castles, National Historic Site
Historical Period Pre Edo Period
Features gates, bridges, trenches, stone walls
Visitor Information
Access Takasaki Sta. (Takasaki Line), 40 min. bus, 15 min. walk
Visitor Information park, open any time
Time Required 180 mins
Website https://www.city.takasaki.gunma.jp/docs/2013121600330/
Location Takasaki, Gunma Prefecture
Coordinates 36° 24' 17.64" N, 138° 57' 2.99" E
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Added to Jcastle 2008
Contributor Eric
Admin Year Visited 2008, 2022
Admin Visits November 6, 2008; April 8, 2022
Friends of JCastle
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(4 votes)
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26 months ago
Score 1++
The bridge which is not a reconstruction is pretty fly, imo, so i've increased my rating. Plus it's a phenomenal site anyway with such deep, expansive earthworks and even some ishigakeh.


47 months ago
Score 2++
Added information about gatehouse to profile


71 months ago
Score 2++
Added the shiny new gate to gallery


111 months ago
Score 0++
I went this morning to this castle, after getting the very useful map at the Visitor information office in Takasaki station. At busstop #2 in front of West-exit of the station i took a bus bound for Misato. The lady at the Visitor office, told me to get off at Misatomotomachi. I saw in my book for collecting the 100meijo stamp that it was better to get off one stop earlier, Tamachi (Misato Tamachi, there is also one at Takasaki). The stamp is at the mayorhouse not so far from this busstop. The busride was 510yen. From the mayorhouse to the castle it's about 2 km. I entered at the shiroyama iriguchi to stroll around the trails. The horikiri are really impressive. I can easily imagine that attacking such a castle must have been difficult. The works are going on for the gates and bridges. I saw some piles of sand, stones and gravel next to the ni-no-maru. Interesting place to visit if you are in the vicinity.


129 months ago
Score 0++
Minowa Castle Ruin is like other “earthen” castles in Eastern Japan such as Sakura Castle (Chiba) and Suwahara Castle (Shizuoka) with well preserved earthen ramparts, earthen bridges, very deep moats and, in Minowa’s case, a few stone walls. Some of the moats used to be filled with water. For castle fans who want to track Ii Naomasa’s castles’ evolution, this is certainly a worthwhile site. There isn’t a lot of ishigaki (stone walls) at this castle site. What is left is located mainly around the Sannomaru (Third Bailey) and at the Kotomon (Koto Gate) on the west side. The photos have already been posted by the website administer from his trip in 2008. There is also some ishigaki at the Gozen Kuruwa (Gozen Bailey), but the area was roped off and closed to the public. Minowa Castle has some huge moats. The deepest moat, at around 20 metres from top to bottom, is located between the Honmaru and Ninomaru. As you move from north to south, the moats get shallower. Most of the moats protecting the inner baileys of Minowa Castle: Honmaru (Main Bailey), Ninomaru (Second Bailey), Kuruwa Umadashi (Kuruwa Barbican), and Gozen Kuruwa (Gozen Bailey) are 10 to 20 metres deep. The baileys are terraced and overlook the next layer of defences as you descend down the hill from north to south. Since 2011, a lot of effort has gone into making more of the castle ruin visible and accessible to visitors. Some of the massive moats have had all of its undergrowth and trees removed, so you can see them clearly as well as actually walk in them unlike at Sakura Castle, where the deep dry moat around the main bailey is full of undergrowth and inaccessible. Many of the major baileys have also had their undergrowth and weeds cut back, so they are a lot more visible now compared to some of the photos on this website. As mentioned already by web administrator, you can catch a bus to Minowa Castle from Takasaki Station. My wife and I got off at the Shiroyama Iriguchi stop (550yen), entering the castle complex from the southeast. Alternatively, you can get off at the Shogakkomae (Primary School) stop and get into the castle complex from the south via the Mizunote Bailey. This is a solid two-star castle (mainly for its impressive moats and massive earthen ramparts), but it will morph into a three-star experience if you come across Okada-san, the local castle expert who is at the site almost every day of the week. This guy is very knowledgeable about Minowa Castle (and other castles), and he is one of the members of the local NPO which promotes Minowa Castle. He explained to us about some Hojo-period ishigaki (at least 6 metres high) found in the excavation of the earthen bridge linking the Kuruwa Umadashi and Ninomaru. He also told us about the types of ishigaki found at the Sannomaru. The other ishigaki visible dates from when Ii Naomasa upgraded the castle fortifications, particularly along the main path up to the castle. Misaki City will rebuild two of the castle gates, including a wooden two-storey gatehouse at the Kuruwa Umadashi and a simpler wooden gate on the western side on the Honmaru (Nishikoguchi). If I remember correctly from what Okada-san told us, both gates will be built from Kiyaki (Zelkova).The wooden bridge which used to link the Honmaru and the Kurayashiki Bailey will also be rebuilt. It is similar to the one which links Kane Bailey and Tenbin Yagura at Hikone Castle. The work is scheduled to start next year and will take five years to complete. Guess when I will be back for a re-visit. The site is reasonably well signposted with additional signs put up since the web administrator’s visit in 2008. According to Okada-san, there are plans to upgrade the signs further by making them more detailed with multilingual explanations in Japanese, English, Korean, Chinese, and German. Whether this actually happens will depend on funding available. Oh, I almost forgot: before you head out to Minowa Castle, stop by the tourist info counter at Takasaki Station and ask the helpful ladies there for an A3 double-sided handout(in Japanese only) with a map of the castle ruin and detailed explanations about the castle as well as information on catching the bus to get there and back. Armed with a map of the castle, we had no problem at all in locating one of the six ways to get into and navigate our way around this massive castle ruin. This castle ruin certainly deserves its place in the list of top 100 castles in Japan. For me, Minowa Castle Ruin is definitely worth at least 2.5 stars.